Kathleen Swinbourne

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Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, all to myself

Halligans Bay is the only place you can camp at Kati Thanda (Lake Eyre), and I have it all to myself. Well, not quite to myself. There is a bird who appears to be trying to mate with his reflection in my wing mirror. And there’s the spiders – but more on them later. First, the bird. When I arrived I went for a walk to check out the lake, and when I came back there he was, singing to his reflection in my wing mirror. And every time I walked away, he came back. It wasn’t long before he didn’t wait for me to leave. That bird in the mirror was just too fascinating, and I think it might be mating time! The lake is a 60km drive along a ‘public access route’. Basically, a track through somebody’s property. Despite all the warnings, it was actually quite a good track, in some places it even looked freshly graded. I was driving along at a leisurely pace, enjoying the countryside, when suddenly, it looked as though I had been transported to another planet. I crested a hill, and everything changed instantly. It was black and desolate. The change was jawdroppingly sudden, and I actually did say “whoo” as I crested the hill and saw it in front of me. Then a few kilometres further along it changed again, to the salt, sand and scrub you would expect at a salt lake. Seriously, watching the changes in the Australian countryside as you drive through the outback is endlessly fascinating! I was passed by three cars on the way in, who I caught up with having lunch at the first lookout at ABC Bay. I expected that they would catch up with me again at the campground, but I haven’t seen them since. They drove 50k to look at the lake, and didn’t bother going the extra 10k to get the amazing views of the expanse of the lake! As with everywhere outback, make sure you look down when you’re walking. Small bright green grasses and plants cling tenaciously to life amongst the salt, salt crystals glisten in the sunlight. And if you’re not careful you’ll trip over a small bush! Like a lot of places outback, it’s after dark that things come to life. While waiting for the stars to appear in greater numbers I decided to do some spotlighting. “Wow” I thought “this is a great torch” as I shone it around and the sand glistened in its light. Then one of the lights moved. “How beautiful” I thought “the cute little nocturnal animals are coming out”. I shouldn’t have investigated closer. Every single one of those lights shining over the sand is a spider. You’ve probably heard that you’re never more than six feet away from a spider in Australia. Well, out here it’s six inches. The land is a heaving mass of spiders, all coming out to do whatever it is they do at night. I’ll probably lie awake now hearing them climbing over my swag, wondering if I’d prefer to be devoured by a million spiders, or whether there might be a mass murderer who’s driven 60km along a dirt track at night, on the off chance somebody will be by themselves! But the stars are beautiful, and it’s almost a full moon. Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre 60km along a public access route just south of William Creek. When I was there the track had been freshly graded and was very good. It’s not always like that – check at William Creek Hotel for conditions. A SA Desert Parks Pass is required to visit, and covers camping. Toilets provided, no showers or water. Obey all warning signs. It is easy to get lost walking on the lake when there are no landmarks to tell you where you are. DO NOT drive on the lake. Even if you have no regard for the environment or local culture, think about your car. The high levels of salt will corrode your vehicle, and if you get bogged you will need help to get out. You will be fined and pay a lot of money to be rescued.

Halligans Bay is the only place you can camp at Kati Thanda (Lake Eyre), and I have it all to myself. Well, not quite to myself. There is a bird who appears to be trying to mate with his reflection in my wing mirror. And there’s the spiders – but more on them later. First, …

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Coward Springs, a desert oasis

Like most places of interest on the Oodnadatta Track, Coward Springs was originally a siding for the old Ghan railway line. When they were putting the track through, somebody decided that the best way to get water was to sink a bore. Well, they got water – more than they expected. The water gushed out, …

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The best laid plans ….

    The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft a-gley, [often go awry]  – Robert Burns      

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The most iconic places in Australia you’ve never heard of

Orange sun setting behind dead tree branches at White Cliffs in outback NSW

Everybody knows the Sydney Opera House & Harbour Bridge, Bondi Beach, Uluru, and the Great Barrier Reef. But there are many other places that are just as magnificent that you’ve probably never heard of or, if you do know them, haven’t thought about visiting. Places that are seared into the Australian psyche,but which even locals …

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Top Australian Outback landscapes

Watarrka - Kings Canyon

The Australian outback is not all flat, endless plains. The countryside is constantly changing – rainforest, floodplains (and drought plains), ‘jump up’ country, rivers, deserts, sand dunes, and red dust are some of the things you’ll see. Sometimes all within the space of a day’s drive. Even the name of the deserts conjures up amazing …

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Things you need to know before travelling in Australia

You’re thinking about visiting Australia, and want to make the most of your time here. You’ve checked the web for the best places to visit, and come up with your list of places to see. If you’re like most people that list will include Sydney Harbour Bridge & Opera House Bondi Beach Uluru Great Barrier …

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